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Gallows Bay Enhancement: A Lengthy but Promising Venture

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The Gallows Bay Marine Facility on St. Croix, a focal point for maritime development. Credit: V.I. CONSORTIUM.

The residents of St. Croix were informed on Tuesday about the long-term plans to upgrade the Gallows Bay area to support small cruise ships and luxury yachts. The project, currently in the early stages of a feasibility study, was discussed in a meeting hosted by the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in collaboration with the V.I. Port Authority.

Katie Bailey, the planning technical lead at USACE, emphasized the Corps’ commitment to developing efficient, safe, and environmentally sustainable waterborne transportation systems. This commitment is rooted in the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.

A pivotal agreement between VIPA and USACE, signed last October, initiated a comprehensive study expected to span at least three years. According to Ms. Bailey, this study aims to identify water resource challenges and devise potential solutions. The completion of the study is essential before federal decision-makers can consider proceeding with construction and seeking congressional authorization.

Gallows Bay has been under study by USACE since the 1950s. Initially, a 25-foot deep channel near Round Reef was proposed, but later studies in the 1950s and 1960s led to modifications in design, depth, and location. The original 1950s plan was officially de-authorized in 1986, as explained by Ms. Bailey. Attempts by VIPA to dredge the channel in 1991 and 2014 did not materialize.

The current study is comprehensive, focusing not only on dredging and widening the channel but also exploring additional management strategies like traffic management and enhanced tug services.

Chris McNees, USACE project manager, cautioned that the timeline for such an extensive project is uncertain and subject to various factors, including the political process. “This is not an overnight process,” McNees stated, highlighting that the current feasibility phase itself is expected to last several years.

Governor Bryan has expressed optimism about the project’s potential benefits for the Virgin Islands. He noted the importance of balancing national interests with the specific needs of the Virgin Islands, ensuring that the project delivers more benefits than costs.

USACE has committed to maintaining public engagement throughout the project, ensuring that residents and stakeholders are informed and can participate in the process. This approach aligns with Governor Bryan’s vision of inclusive and transparent development initiatives that cater to the well-being of the Virgin Islands community.

Residents are encouraged to stay updated on the project’s progress through online platforms and community meetings.

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Development

Progressive Developments in USVI’s Maritime and Aviation Sectors Unveiled by Port Authority Board

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The Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) Board has recently announced a series of significant advancements in its maritime and aviation operations. The authority is taking bold strides to enhance and expand its services, reflecting a commitment to fostering growth and efficiency in these critical sectors.

In a move to boost the capacity and capabilities of the marine division, VIPA’s board has greenlighted negotiations to expand Priority Road Services’ lease at the Wilfred “Bomba” Allick Port and Transshipment Center on St. Thomas. This expansion will add over 100,000 square feet to their current operations, allowing for an increase in non-exclusive shipping services and providing much-needed space for hazardous materials storage.

Furthermore, VIPA has renewed its lease agreement with Aquatic Car Rentals for counter space at the Urman Victor Fredericks Marine Terminal in Red Hook, St. Thomas. This three-year lease, with an option for a two-year extension, ensures Aquatic Car Rentals can continue to offer crucial ferry ticketing services that facilitate travel between the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.

The aviation sector is also seeing significant developments, with the board approving a comprehensive proposal from Stantec. This engineering consultancy will undertake airfield surveys, design, and procurement documentation for a critical FAA-mandated airfield marking project at Henry E. Rohlsen Airport. This initiative, set to commence in April, is crucial for enhancing safety and operational efficiency.

Additionally, a master service agreement with Michael Baker International will bring expert construction cost estimating and technical review services to VIPA on a task order basis. This three-year agreement, extendable for two additional one-year periods, is poised to streamline project management and ensure fiscal responsibility across VIPA’s endeavors.

In an effort to preserve the territory’s rich cultural heritage, the board has also approved funds exceeding $149,000 for the relocation of a historic shipwreck in Charlotte Amalie Harbor. This initiative, essential for the upcoming dredging project, underscores VIPA’s dedication to environmental stewardship and compliance with regulatory requirements for obtaining necessary permits from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Further enhancing infrastructure, the board has authorized additional electrical and drainage improvements at the St. Croix Passenger Transportation Center and its adjoining parking garage. These upgrades are part of VIPA’s ongoing commitment to providing top-tier facilities for residents and visitors alike.

These initiatives, spearheaded by the diligent efforts of the V.I. Port Authority’s Governing Board, mark a significant leap forward in strengthening the territory’s maritime and aviation infrastructure. Through strategic investments and partnerships, VIPA is setting the stage for a future of enhanced connectivity, safety, and service excellence in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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Progress in the Virgin Islands Airport Public/Private Partnership Initiative

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The Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) has made a significant stride in its ambitious Airports Public/Private Partnership (P3) Project by receiving several compliant bids in response to its call for proposals. This project targets the enhancement and modernization of the territory’s key air gateways: the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas and the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix.

VIPA announced that its dedicated internal committee is poised to embark on a detailed analysis of the proposals over the coming weeks. This meticulous review will culminate in the selection of a preferred bidder, who will then be presented to the VIPA Board of Governors for approval. During this crucial phase, VIPA has opted to maintain confidentiality, refraining from public comments.

The authority has secured the expertise of a cadre of advisory firms to support the P3 project. Frasca & Associates LLC will serve as the financial advisor, Mayer Brown LLP alongside local counsels Jennifer Jones and Trudy Fenster will offer legal guidance, The Paslay Group will act as the technical advisor, and the Public Strategy Group will manage communications.

Reflecting on a landmark achievement on April 19, 2023, VIPA’s Board of Governors identified four finalists—daa International, Vantage Airport Group Ltd., Vinci Airports, and VIports Partners—from an original group of eight candidates. These selections were made based on a set of stringent evaluation criteria, identifying firms with the capacity to spearhead airport terminal development, operations, and investment.

The firm ultimately chosen will undertake the financing of infrastructure, terminal redevelopment, and the management of airport operations, all while harnessing private capital and avoiding additional capital debt for VIPA or the Virgin Islands government. Under the stewardship of Executive Director Carlton Dowe, VIPA will maintain ownership and oversight of the airports, continuing to qualify for Federal Aviation Administration grants.

Dowe has articulated the project’s synchrony with the economic, travel, and tourism objectives of the region, anticipating the initiation of redevelopment activities between the final quarter of 2024 and early 2025.

Governor Albert Bryan has commended the forward movement of the P3 agreement process as crucial for elevating the territory’s airport facilities to continental U.S. standards. He underscored the initiative’s role in enriching the tourism experience and streamlining travel for both visitors and residents alike.

For comprehensive information about the Airports P3 Project and ongoing updates, the public is invited to visit the project’s dedicated website at www.vipaairportsp3.com.

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Historic Shipwreck to Be Relocated for Harbor Expansion in St. Thomas

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A pivotal decision emerged from the V.I. Port Authority Governing Board’s recent meeting, as Engineering Director Preston Beyer presented a proposal to allocate nearly $150,000 for the preservation of a mid-19th century shipwreck. This shipwreck, caught in the planned path of the St. Thomas Harbor dredging project, has been recognized as a significant cultural artifact by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ State Historic Preservation Office.

Beyer emphasized the importance of safeguarding such cultural treasures to ensure the support of the Army Corps of Engineers for the dredging initiative. Following thorough consultations with both local and federal entities, the decision was made to reposition the shipwreck to a nearby location, safely away from the dredging activities, without diminishing its historical value.

The financial aspect of this undertaking was addressed when VIPA Executive Director Carlton Dowe revealed a recent conversation with Governor Albert Bryan Jr., who assured that the necessary funds, amounting to no more than $149,509, would be secured. While the specifics of the funding sources were reserved for a private executive session, this dialogue underscores the commitment to both heritage preservation and infrastructural development.

Dowe articulated a clear stance to the board: the dredging project, essential for enhancing the harbor’s capacity to welcome larger vessels and boost the local cruise industry, hinges on the successful relocation of the shipwreck. This operation reflects a balanced approach to progress, ensuring that the expansion efforts do not come at the expense of the island’s rich historical legacy.

In a significant move last November, legislators earmarked $17 million for the harbor dredging, aimed at augmenting Charlotte Amalie’s ability to accommodate the next generation of cruise ships. This project stands as a testament to the island’s dedication to economic growth while preserving its cultural heritage, a principle strongly supported by Governor Bryan’s administration.

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